Writing Tips for Undergraduates
Useful Resources for Undergraduate Students
Top 10 Writing Tips for Undergraduates
Most undergraduate students at Walden have been out of high school or college for several years, so academic writing can feel unfamiliar. Just like anything else, though, academic writing is a skill you will learn to develop with practice. Below are the Writing Centerís top undergraduate writing tips to help you get started.
1. Construct an argument. Part of academic writing is the need for a purpose in each paper you write. In most writing assignments you need to discuss a topic and have a reason for discussing that topic. Rather than summarizing a topic or authorís idea, you need to analyze and convince your reader of something. For example, if your topic is electric cars, your purpose might be to convince the reader that "Electric cars are a fuel-efficient alternative to gas-fuelled cars." This means that every paragraph will be part of your overall goal to argue this point. We have additional information about constructing an argument on our website, along with some tips about organizing your argument.
2. Include a thesis statement. Part of constructing an argument is using a thesis statement. The thesis statement of your paper is the statement around which your argument is centered. It also must express an insight that you support. We have more tips about developing a thesis statement on our website.
3. Maintain overall organization. All of your papers will include an introduction and conclusion. An introduction should introduce the reader to the topic of your paper and include your thesis statement. In essence, the introduction prepares the reader for all of the main points you will be making in the body of your paper. Your conclusion is a summary of all of the main points in your paper. Along with these main points, your conclusion will reiterate the main argument of the paper. We have more information and help for developing introductions and conclusions on our website.
4. Use the first person (when appropriate). First person (i.e., I and my) is acceptable but rare in academic writing. Using first person allows you to replace vague phrases like the researcher and the author with the simpler I. First person should not be used, however, to express opinions or place yourself in your writing unnecessarily. Phrases like I believe and In my opinion make academic writing too informal and could discredit your ideas by implying bias. We have more information about first person on our website.
5.Do not draw from personal experiences. Sometimes professors ask students to reflect on personal experiences within a paper. Most of the time, however, including examples or anecdotes from your life can weaken your academic writing. Instead, use academic sources to introduce your topic and then help support your assertions. If your professor does ask for personal experiences, limit them to experiences that directly relate to the argument in your paper.
6.Avoid bias. Academic writing is focused on presenting your ideas in an unbiased, objective manner. For instance, this means that you will always need to be sensitive when discussing age, gender, racial and ethnic identities, sexual orientation, and disabilities. This means avoiding "all" or "never" statements, which generalize entire groups of people without recognizing their individual differences. If you would like more examples of ways to stay objective in your writing, you might find the presentation on our website helpful.
7.Use academic expression. Using formal, academic language is an expected convention for university-level writing. This means that you should avoid informal language such as colloquialisms, slang, metaphors, clichés, and jargon. A cliché, for example, is a phrase used so often it has lost its original meaning, like "He was hung out to dry." or "She was one step ahead of them."
8.Use APA formatting. Your professors might begin asking you to follow APA more and more closely as you progress in your program. APA includes rules for citing sources, capitalizing, presenting numbers and statistics, and formatting cover pages, headers, and headings. Unless you are provided a template in your course, you might want to use our general Course Paper template as a starting place for your formatting. Most students are new to APA when they first enter Walden, but with a little practice, it will become second nature. To assist students in learning APA, we have devoted a whole section of our website to explaining its basic rules.
9.Cite your sources. Whenever you use a source in your paper, you will need to give credit to the source. Citing sources in text tells the reader to whom an idea or information belongs, as well as indicates where in the reference list the reader can find the source. Any source you use in the body of your paper should be cited and included in your reference list, which tells the reader where to find the sources you use. Here are a few basic formatting rules for books and journal articles, along with other common examples on our website.
10.Pay attention to grammar and sentence structure. Part of academic writing is making sure your paper follows proper American English grammar and sentence structure rules. For information on particular parts of grammar, you can find explanations on our website. You might also find Grammarly helpful; Grammarly is an automated program that identifies many grammatical and word choice errors and can be a great first-round editing tool! You can find Grammarly by clicking the big green button on our home page and reviewing our tutorial .
Improve Your Writing Skills
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